For many of you, I am sure 2020 has changed the way you look at office space, whether you want to bring your team together to feed off one another’s energy or you found efficiencies working from home, whether you are a brick and mortar business that truly has expanded their online presence. I think we’re looking at a shift this year and how much office space we truly need, whether that’s growing to expand your team or that’s downsizing to really be more efficient with your space. To be sure that you are doing this with full confidence. I want to share with you a few things that you should consider before signing your next lease. 

Commercial Leasing

I want to dive into commercial leasing.  The difference, of course, is commercial versus residential leasing. I am not your specialist when it comes to residential leasing. There are a lot of complex issues when it comes to talking about somebody’s home, but there are just as many slightly different and less challenging differences when we talk about commercial leasing. And I actually grew up in this space.  for those of you that don’t know me personally, at least, I actually grew up with entrepreneurial parents. And my dad was a commercial real estate developer for over 20 years in the Phoenix area. I, of course, grew up with it from the landlord side, but since then, of course, helped many of my clients through landlord-tenant issues and signing their own leases, some for the very first time. 

Finding the Right Office Space

Now, I want to talk to you about finding the right office space, because I know it can be a daunting task for the tenant, and that’s you. There are several issues that you should be addressing when first identifying an office space, but also before you sign a lease and of course, always know what you sign. If you take anything away from today’s episode, know what you’re signing. I’m going to share with you a few tips on my checklist to help identify certain pertinent pre signing matters that you, the tenant, should consider before finalizing a lease. What I’m going to share about, however, does not need to be followed in strict chronological order. The categories and stages I outline overlap depending on the variables and your timeline for your particular transaction. 

Finding an Experienced Broker

First up, finding an experienced broker. If you’re looking for office space, you should initially hire an experienced broker. A broker is a fundamental asset to a tenant in the beginning of the leasing process, especially because a broker brings many things to the table, including assessing your priorities for the new space. They can estimate the amount of space you might need to rent in order to achieve your operational goals. They can help you identify potential office space, and they can provide an analysis and comparison of the projected costs over leasing for the term of that space that you might be considering. 

They also help you guide negotiations with the landlord and the landlord’s broker for any material issues that can be raised during the different stages of the leasing process. This might include the specific concessions that the landlord might offer. And I think this is a good place to pause, because I want to remind you there are concessions. There is not a strict must do way of doing business. There are norms. But some of those norms include concessions that you may not be aware of. They will also walk you through the security deposit and the need for you to offer a lease guarantee. You and the broker should enter into a brokerage agreement that clearly documents the method and timing of payment for the broker’s commission. Typically, the broker receives its share of the commission from the landlord’s broker, who is paid by the landlord. 

Conducting Due Diligence

Now, regardless of who is doing the research and supporting you with due diligence, I cannot emphasize more the importance of doing your due diligence. Once you find the right space, you and your attorney and your broker are going to come together as a team to conduct due diligence. 

Conducting due diligence can be expensive depending on this space. Make sure you ask the questions upfront from your team so that you know what those costs may be before you begin. When doing due diligence, you should consider market conditions. Of course, that is something that we all have top of mind. Your broker and your attorney can advise you about the market conditions and the local customs for office leasing because it’s going to vary from not only state to state, but neighborhood to neighborhood. This information is so important for the tenant that you can conduct a lease negotiation effectively. You have to know what you’re working with. That’s going to, of course, include the space size. 

Your broker can advise you on how the landlord measured the premises. There are various methods for the landlord to determine the size of the space, and your broker or attorney will be able to help you understand that. But something to note in case this raises any alarm, the word approximate, approximate square footage is customary because, of course, there might be a slight variation, depending on who measures and from what point in the room. Not all walls are completely straight and that is just part of building. You probably don’t realize it or maybe you do because you live in an older home like I do, but no walls or street. I mean, we can’t ever get completely perfect, that’s why I use the word approximate. 

Next up, permits. You should determine whether in the letter of intent stage, if there are any additional permits that must be obtained for occupancy or the initial build out the party responsible for securing any of these permits and any additional cost with the issuance of these permits, it should be clearly stated in the letter of intent and something that, you know, going in expenses, your broker should be able to help you determine operating expenses. No, not the operating expenses with running your business, but the utilities, the taxes and the common area maintenance expenses, which are also referred to together. 

This will help you assess the full all in additional costs that may be added on to the rent. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning, HVAC, you should consider having an expert come out to consult you on whether or not the current scope of available EVC in the space is sufficient for your needs. This might include even making sure that there are not any repairs necessary to the embassy here in Arizona. It is very common for any cause of maintenance to be passed to the tenant.  you want to make sure that you do a thorough inspection before you sign your lease and request any maintenance be done to bring it back to fully functioning condition, maintenance and repair. Now, this goes along with what we talked about with the ABC. But make sure you outline what you are about to be responsible for inside the space for continued maintenance and repair and make sure that if something is not in good condition, that you take care of that up front and see if you can request the landlord cover the cost. Each of these things are fundamental to finding a space that will serve your team. 

Negotiating Letter of Intent

Another item on the checklist is negotiating the letter of intent. Now, the word negotiate may seem intimidating, but finalizing the letter of intent in the early stages of the leasing process will create ease and fluidity through the rest of the process to signing. The letter of intent generally sets out the business terms agreed to in the transaction. The letter of intent should clearly specify if it’s binding or non-binding. By effectively negotiating your letter of intent, you as the lessee and your landlord as the lessor can reduce the time involved in finalizing the lease itself, avoid miscommunications or misunderstandings between the parties, and create deadlines for important events. 

Negotiating and Finalizing the Lease

Next, negotiating and finalizing the lease that is the last step before the big finale, so here is what you can expect. The landlord’s attorney typically drafts the initial lease draft and sends it to you for your review. Of course, I would suggest that you work with a local attorney to have them consult on the agreement and do a review after this between you, your attorney and your broker. You can send a markup of the initial draft outlining your initial objections to the landlord’s form of the lease. The markup details your objections to specific lease clauses. Depending on the scope and complexity of the lease transaction, the parties can go through multiple red lines and that is normal. Don’t be afraid of that right before you sign the lease. 

Right Before You Sign the Lease

You should review the lease one last time to ensure the final lease form reflects the material terms agreed to by the parties. And here are the ones I want you to pay special attention to rental payments, security deposit, the term of the lease and any extension options, the commencement date and any contingencies, which means anything standing in between you and you moving in the expiration date. A description of the premises and permitted uses, including any exclusive use rights to make sure that you don’t end up with a competitor right next door. Entering into any contract can be intimidating, including lease that usually is that for a longer period of time and it’s not something to be taken lightly. If you have any unanswered questions, head on over to our private Facebook community, where we will dove into this conversation a little bit deeper.